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Condos vs. apartments in definition
A condominium may be simply defined as an "apartment" that a resident "owns". A condo takes part in a community, a piece of real estate individually owned yet including communal use of and access to common facilities.
What you get with a retirement condo vs. a seniors' apartment
Facilities that may be part of the condo agreement will include hallways, heating system, elevators and exterior areas, all executed under legal rights associated with individual ownership and controlled by an association of communal condo owners. Senior apartments are mainly of two broad types, retirement apartments in a building that may or may not be designated as 55 plus and a suite inside a retirement community, where there may be services provided including communal meals or healthcare, etc.
Condos vs. apartments: the social aspect
A condo or condominium offers investment potential but may not offer sufficient social contact. This also goes for an apartment in a regular building. In a retirement community with apartments or suites there is ample opportunity for social interaction. This is in fact what seniors find they love about moving into a retirement home, the social aspect of retirement communities.
Ownership is the big difference
A condo is similar to an apartment but what distinguishes them is the form of ownership. If you have a coop retirement condo, you own, together with other tenants, the whole building and a share of this common property belongs to you. In an apartment there is no ownership and your rent pays for a roof over your head but you get nothing more for your money. You do not get anything out of your investment, no equity is acquired and once you quit paying your rent all obligations between you and the owner are terminated. In other words, apartments are much like hotels, in that one company owns the entire building and all the units within are rented out. Every condo belongs to an individual or a company and can be purchased or sold.
Senior condos and retirement community apartments: the features
Most new condos have spacious tastefully decorated halls, security, billiard, gym, and perhaps a communal hall or other communal areas.
Apartments in big cities usually have a lot of amenities but nothing in comparison to what you might find in some of today's retirement communities, where there may be onsite golf greens, exercise areas, fine dining and more. These communities follow a philosophy that might be phrased "you only retire once."
Freedom vs. responsibility
Condos have lots of rules and regulations designed to maintain property values whereas apartments offer more freedom. Both Condos and apartments can offer freedom from chores outside your property. Those seniors who wish for an investment option may think of buying a condominium whereas an apartment is ideal for seniors who wish to lease out a place.
There is a great variation in styles of condominiums, as well as a wide variety of prices from significantly lower than an apartment to much higher for luxury units. Most condos are fully furnished, but you can also find lightly to entirely unfurnished. Renting also gives you a lot more freedom than buying a property.
Condos may have more established and permanent inhabitants whereas apartments are likely more temporary. Most seniors who wish to buy a condo are happy with the decision since they gain equity every month. Apartment leasing, on the other hand, gives flexibility and freedom if one does not wish to continue staying there.